As the Munster Championship draws closer, excitement continues to build for this season’s summer of hurling.
With the opening match looming, we take a look at an All Star team ahead of the Munster Championship.
As always the standard in Munster is incredibly high, making this selection all the tougher. Since the turn of the decade, Tipperary have dominated Munster, with victories in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. Cork, Limerick and Waterford have all claimed one title each.
Whilst Clare climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand in 2013, they have not won a Munster title in 19 years now.
Without further ado, here’s the XV we’ve selected.
1. Anthony Nash
While Nash’s form may have dipped somewhat in previous seasons, this year’s league form has put the Cork netminder back to his brilliant best and back in the conversations about the country’s top shot-stoppers. An All-Star in 2012 and 2013, the Kanturk native’s puck outs have both distance and accuracy, crucial components for any goalkeeper.
Nash’s shot-stopping is perhaps his biggest attribute, capable of making saves from close distance. He may need to call on this attribute on Sunday against Tipperary.
2. Cathal Barrett
Barrett was finally awarded an All-Star in 2016, the Holycross club man has been outstanding since breaking into the Tipp side in 2014.
Barrett is best known for attacking the ball from in front of his man. Barrett loves winning clean possession and taking the ball into contact and is a nightmare for any corner forward. The 23-year-old will be crucial to Tipp’s defence of the Munster crown.
3. James Barry
Again we go to Tipperary for our number 3. James Barry has proven to become a very reliable full-back, a poisoned chalice following Paul Curran’s retirement. Barry has come up trumps in battles with some of the best full-forwards in the country and goes about his business quietly. Should an injury arise for the former UCC student, Tipp’s Summer could be a shaky one.
Barry has come up trumps in battles with some of the best full-forwards in the country and goes about his business quietly. Should an injury arise for the former UCC student, Tipp’s summer could be a shaky one.
4. Shane Fives
The first Waterford man on the list, Fives is often overlooked as his partner in crime Noel Connors receives the attention.
Since Waterford’s resurgence in 2015, however, Fives has been a model of consistency. In similar fashion to Barrett, the Tourin man plays from the front and his speed and aggression are less than ideal for any corner forward. Expect a big summer from this man again.
5. Tadgh De Búrca
Bourke has established himself as one of the top backs in the game since breaking on to the senior scene in 2014. The 2015 Young Hurler of The Year has shown us his ability to shut down any opposition threat in the role of a sweeper, and is equally as capable of holding his own marking a top class forward.
Consistently on his game, the 23-year-old is strong in the air and his ball distribution to his attacking teammates is second to none.
6. Ronan Maher
Where do you begin when describing a hurler of Maher’s capabilities? Nominated for Young Hurler of the Year in 2016, Maher had a dream season, earning himself an All Star in the process.
As sweet a striker of the ball as you are likely to find, Maher’s other party trick, his aerial ability, is a trait which will be dreaded by goalkeepers and centre forwards for the summer.
7. Padraic Maher
You can’t have one without the other and Maher is undoubtedly the best number 7 in the game right now. Beginning his career at 3, the Thurles man has always been more comfortable at left half back.
His physical presence can only be described as monstrous, most sides will aim to keep the ball away from Maher, which is perhaps the biggest compliment a back can be paid.
8. Jamie Barron
The Fourmilewater club man is a key component in Derek McGrath’s game plan. Both Barron’s agility and stick-work afford him the ability to find his way out of almost any situation.
Both of these abilities would be rendered useless, however, if Barron did not have the engine to match. An All Star in 2016, McGrath will hope for a big summer from Barron.
9. Austin Gleeson
Both Young Hurler and Senior Hurler of the Year in 2016, Gleeson was outstanding in last year’s championship. Similar to Tony Kelly, Gleeson is capable of doing just about anything with the sliotar.
Unplayable when at his peak, Gleeson’s biggest problem is his lack of a position. The Mount Sion man has excelled in both attack and defence and it seems the debate is still going on in the Deise as to where to play him. Wherever he is put, however, expect him to cause serious damage.
10. Tony Kelly
What a dream for any manager to manage the Ballyae clubman is. Kelly, is in the opinion of many, the best player in the country right now. A Munster club medalist in the season passed, Kelly’s highlight reel is downright insane.
Capable of producing anything when the ball is in hand, if Clare are to reclaim the Munster title, Kelly will undoubtedly have played a massive part.
11. Patrick “Bonner” Maher
Bonner is acknowledged as the cog that keeps the well oiled Tipperary machine spinning, and that is difficult to dispute. The Lorrha-Dorrha club hurler will provide any team with an undying and unmatched work-rate that forces defenders into mistake after mistake, an attribute every forward unit needs.
Maher has won All Irelands with the Premier in 2010 and 2016 and is the ideal, selfless teammate to go to battle with in a Munster championship classic.
12. Conor Lehane
Blink and you’ll miss him. Conor Lehane is one of the quickest forwards in the country if not the quickest. At times it can appear as though Lehane is not in the game, however, his points from play average must be one of the highest in the game.
A regular contributor to the Rebels’ tally in every game, Lehane’s point-scoring will be needed once more in 2017.
13. Podge Collins
Now focused solely on the small ball, it is undeniable that Collins’ attempts to balance both codes was ultimately unachievable in the modern game.
With that said, Collins was highly impressive in Clare’s otherwise unsuccessful league campaign. The Cratloe corner forward will be hopeful of regaining the form which saw him awarded an All Star in 2013.
14. Seamus Callanan
The best 14 in the country, if not the best, Callanan has been unmarkable since 2014. Held scoreless from play in just one championship game since 2014, the Drom and Inch man has silenced all of his previous critics of years gone by.
Injuries have put a slight dent in Callanan’s plans for the summer, however don’t expect that to make full backs’ jobs any easier this year.
15. John McGrath
The Hurler of the Year so far, McGrath lit up the national league with his spectacular performances. A brilliant 2016 earned him his first All Star and a second one appears very achievable on current form.
The Loughmore-Castleleiney attacker is now one of the Premier County’s key men. The UL student has wrists that are matched only by his two brothers.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena